Correctly laying turf
As with any job you are considering to have an external contractor come in and do check out the companies thoroughly and get several quotations (click for advice).
The best times to lay turf are between March-June and September-November.
Prior to the selected turfing contractor doing the job have a good look at the area in which the turf will be situated.
When planning where to lay the turf try and leave a border near fences and walls as it is hard to cut the lawn there.
Is it a jungle? Weeds will need treating several weeks before the lawn is laid with a good biodegradable weed killer. One that will kill the root as well as the leaves such as Roundup or Tumbleweed. I know from experience that thistles in particular are real ****s when it comes to coming through the turf. Before the lawn is down you have an opportunity to get rid of them - take it! Or else you will be continuously standing on them with your bare feet as you admire your garden on a cool summers evening. Not the best thing. Have a look on the product label to see when it will be safe to lay the turf after the ground has been treated. If in doubt ask at your local garden centre.
Is it a building site? Your contractor should make sure that any rubble is raked off the surface of the ground prior to any turf being laid. Loose stones and building rubble will prevent the turves roots from making contact with the soil and could make the turf die in patches.
The top soil should then be thoroughly rotivated down to about the first 6 inches to aerate it properly. It is then raked level and gently treaded down (not whacked with a spade as I have seen on Rogue Traders!)
Your contractor will probably have ordered 5% more turf than needed, this is normal and should be included in the quote as this excess will be lost when then lawn is laid and trimmed.
Apart from exceptional circumstances the turf should arrive the same day it is to be laid. From the moment it is dug up on the 'turf farm' until 4 weeks after it is laid in your garden there is a constant battle to keep it moist enough. Failure to do means it will suffer and may die. Therefore, sitting rolled up on your drive or in the back of a truck all night is bad. If its impossible to lay the turf on the same day then it should be rolled out on your driveway (not your prepared surface) and watered to keep it moist.
Start by laying the first turf down the longest straight edge. Butt and fold the neighbouring turf next to it knowing that there will be some shrinkage and if you try and stretch the turfing at this stage you will end up with some gaps when it is bedded in.
The turf should be firmly but carefully tapped down using the back of a spade to ensure that the roots and the soil are in good contact.
If there is an obvious dip in the profile add or remove soil as necessary.
Avoid using odd small sections of turf near the edges of the lawn as these will dry out faster than you can water them and probably die.
After laying the first row, place a plank on the turf and use it to carry the next row of turf to the bare areas of soil. Do not walk on the turf or soil whilst you are laying it as it can be damaged.
Stagger the joints of the turf whilst laying; as you see bricks in a wall.
Once finished the edges can be trimmed. The correct tool being a half-moon spade.
During the first four weeks the lawn should be watered constantly. The first watering should soak the cultivated layer of top soil the turf is laid on. This is very important, as until the root system binds with the soil the turf will lose moisture at an alarming rate and can die quite rapidly if abused.
Avoid excessive walking on the turf especially at the early stages and after about two weeks give the lawn its first cut. Try and cut about one quarter of the length of the grass during each trim at this stage, progressively taking more off as the lawn matures. Just think that a grass plant partly lives via photosynthesis through its blade and chopping all of that off will severely injure or kill the plant and hence your lawn. At best it will go a very unattractive yellow for a few days. A sign that you need to get the lawnmower out more often.
Regular cutting of the grass also tends to reduce the number of weeds that grow in the lawn. Also, take note that trimming a little and often, combined with a lawn fertiliser applied twice a year is the difference between having something that looks like a park football pitch and a bowling green.
Read our article on Caring for Your Lawn, for more information on how to look after your turf once you have laid it.
Leaving turf to long before laying
Poor soil preparation
Not enough watering of the turf
Not mowing regularly enough
Laying in too hot weather (dries out too quick)
Laying on frozen soil.
"Thank you for your advice - wasn't sure how long to wait before mowing or walking on new turf"
"Thank you for this information. I have just decided to clear and lay turf on a small patch of my large garden. I have never attempted this before so your information is of great help. Thanks again."
"Just to let you know that the hyperlink to "Caring for Your Lawn" isn't working"
"After treading down the first time the area should be raked level and trod down again. This should be repeated until the surface is firm and level. "